The lessons native to the Warren story

We’ve had a lot of laughs at the expense of Elizabeth Warren, which come easy when a person refuses to admit the obvious even after it has been made public, and especially when that refusal keeps the story alive long enough to discover something worse.  Instead of taking Allahpundit’s sage advice to simply say that she relied on oral family history when claiming Cherokee heritage, Warren kept insisting it was true and offered her contributions to a cookbook as evidence.  That led to the discovery that Warren had apparently lifted three of her five recipes from other sources, nearly word for word, adding plagiarism to the list of faux pas on the table in this election.

Joe Fitzgerald takes a more serious tone in the Boston Herald this morning in condemning Warren for illegitimate expropriation of the suffering of others:

She might have gotten away with not having any documentation to back up the identity she claimed, if only she’d exhibited some contrition, but what’s making Elizabeth Warren a pariah, even among liberal sympathizers, is that she still doesn’t have a clue of how egregiously exploitative she appears to be.

That brazen sense of entitlement, so unattractive, apparently makes humility impossible, even if it’s feigned for the purpose of public relations. …

Native Americans were massacred, plundered, displaced and herded onto reservations where misery, depravation [sic] and despair darkened a barren existence. They were described as “merciless savages” when our Declaration of Independence was authored, and well into the 1950s they were still portrayed as barbarians by Hollywood directors and TV cowboys.

Not unlike slavery, it’s a part of our past that now haunts America’s conscience. To Elizabeth Warren, however, it offered great political camouflage, a dramatic touch to her resume, as she claimed to be a descendant of those who suffered mercilessly, as if she was somehow deserving of our sympathies, too.

Please. What she deserves is our contempt.

I don’t disagree with this, but I’d like to put it into some perspective and context.  First, it might still be possible that Warren has some small amount of Native American ancestry; we have seen quite a bit of negations of positive claims, but not necessarily a conclusive negation that traces every ancestor back to the Mayflower, or some such.  It does sound as though Warren heard some family lore along those lines, unless she just flat-out lied for the last several decades, which could also be true.  But it’s worthwhile to point out that there is a large difference between being wrong and lying, which is a difference conservatives like myself have pointed out for years when it came to George Bush’s belief that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled WMDs prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

However, the real problem in this case is the system that incentivized Warren, Harvard, and everyone else to make claims like this in the first place.  Affirmative action programs (and later Equal Opportunity additions) had a well-intentioned purpose to right actual wrongs against certain populations — and it’s hard to imagine two populations with more legitimate grievances than Americans of African or Native heritage.  What started out as a well-intentioned purpose became a mockery in almost no time at all, though, and worse.  These programs incentivized division in America rather than unity.  Instead of just being Americans, we all ended up as hyphenations, the latest of which is “bow-tying white boys.”

Predictably, this led to ridiculous outcomes, like the proclamation that the oh-so-pale Warren was Harvard Law’s “first woman of color.” This points out that it’s not just the Warrens of the world who seek illegitimate benefit from this system of division we have erected.  Warren herself certainly should get criticized for the reasons Fitzgerald mentions; even if she does has 1/32nd Native American ancestry, there is simply no evidence to support the notion that this would have in any way disadvantaged Warren in her education or professional life, or even that anyone would have been aware of it had Warren not proclaimed it herself.  The system exists to undo disadvantage — so what purpose is there for Warren to enter into in it at all?  But while we’re criticizing Warren, let’s not leave out Harvard and all of the other public and private organizations that attempt to benefit from the same disunity.  Harvard had no hesitation to promote its “woman of color” despite her color being roughly peaches-and-cream.

The system itself is corrupt, but worse, it’s utterly corrupting.  That’s the true moral of this story, and we shouldn’t let Warren’s rather large tree blind us to the proverbial forest in this issue.  If we want to address systemic disadvantage, to the extent it still exists, we should be reforming the reservation system and inner-city schools to give those who still are truly disadvantaged a chance to overcome those obstacles, and end the system that incentivizes everyone else to exploit those systems at the expense of the actually disadvantaged.

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